Industryweek 14461 Vision

Developing a Vision for Your Operations: 7 Steps to See Where You’re Headed

July 15, 2014
The vision for your organization should be aggressive, yet attainable. Your organization will never be greater than the vision you create.

When engaged in strategic business planning, development of a corporate vision is a mandatory first step. This process is no less valid for operations strategy. Without an adequate vision for the organization, it is difficult to maintain continuous improvement plans and remain (or become) world class.

The most important factor for vision is to strive for greatness. A vision that directs the organization toward mediocrity is difficult to gain enthusiasm among the team. The vision for your organization should be aggressive, yet attainable. Your organization will never be greater than the vision you create in this process.

Step 1: Pick Your Area of Focus

As you begin the process of developing a vision for your operations, you should set the scope or area of focus. Are you developing a vision for your overall organization or a specific functional area of your operations? Is the vision of your entire global production organization or a specific plant? Are you focused on a specific area like workforce development or more broadly on overall production capabilities?

Step 2: Pick Your Timeframe

Typical timeframe for an operational vision is two to five years. This helps the organization get beyond the immediate problems of the day but stay within a realm that still can be understood. The timeframe can be tailored to the needs of the organization, but make sure that a definite timeline is established. This will dictate many choices once the vision is turned into action.

Step 3: Remember Your Past Successes

When formulating an operational vision, it is helpful to pause and recall past successes within the organization. By focusing on some past success, it will help your team stay positive and avoid negative thinking about the vision. This greatly enhances the likelihood that your organization will attain true greatness in its vision and achievements.

Step 4: Write the First Draft

While this seems like the simplest part of the exercise, special care should be exercised. When writing the draft, it is particularly helpful to take a future orientation. In other words, position yourself in the future and describe what you see rather than writing about what you hope will happen in the future.

Additionally, be sure to stay true to yourself and your vision for the operations, not writing what you believe others wish to see. Last, be certain you’re aiming for greatness. A vision of mediocrity is not only disappointing but also can kill the momentum your organization already may have built in your kaizen activities and other continuous improvement exercises.

Step 5: Solicit Feedback and Input

Using care and consideration, select appropriate individuals to give feedback on the vision you’ve developed. You should seek those with solid experience and insights. Ask for feedback on the vision without parameters, thus leaving the discussion of your vision wide open and unlimited. Get a feel for their perspective.

Also look for feedback on the interconnection between the vision you’ve developed and other “interlocking moving pieces” of the overall organization. Will it conflict or complement?

Step 6: Review and Revise

After soliciting feedback and input from others, it is time to review your work and revise as necessary. More important than anything else is answering the question: Is this vision inspiring? If not, definite revision is required. An uninspiring vision is like a wet blanket on the organization. It will smother the staff and their hopes for becoming more competitive and finding success.

Step 7: Share the Vision

After the vision has been fully vetted, it is time to make sure it is well communicated within the operations organization and outside to other functional departments that depend on the input or output requirements of the operations department. It also should be further vetted against corporate vision to ensure congruency.

Once the vision has been adequately revised and communicated to the organization, the operations management team can begin to formulate strategy to achieve the vision and begin to proceed. Periodic review of the vision ensures that it is still relevant and that actions being taken by the organization are congruent with its intent.

Jason Piatt is cofounder and president of Praestar Technology Corp.  Prior to founding Praestar Technology, Jason held various tactical and executive positions in engineering, sales and marketing, and program management with a leading power transmission component manufacturer.  He has served as a member of the faculty at Penn State University and has taught at Pennsylvania College of Technology in electrical and mechanical engineering technology, mathematics, and physics. Jason and the Praestar Consulting team have assisted numerous manufacturers in the areas of lean manufacturing, Six Sigma, sales and marketing management, and strategy formation.

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